The 1960s and 1970s are often referred to as the “golden years” of African music. As more and more African countries freed themselves from colonialism, a wave of artists emerged who celebrated their own cultural legacies rather than those validated by their erstwhile European rulers. This post-colonial generation played roots-based styles employing traditional instruments and African-language lyrics, but also embraced advances in Western technology—electric guitars and fit-for-purpose recording studios in particular.Read More
The music was the best of both worlds and, creatively speaking, the 1960s and 1970s were indeed golden years. With hindsight, they were also special for another reason—they came before the birth of world music in the mid-1980s. Prior to the arrival of a global audience, African artists made music intended purely for African ears. But as sales figures rose in Europe and America, many artists began to tailor their music accordingly. The results were not necessarily “worse” or “better,” or even “less African,” than what came before, but they were different.
Two recent double-CD releases preserve some of the most pioneering and long unavailable West African electric music of the post-colonial, pre-world music era. Authenticité: The Syliphone Years is a various artists compilation of tracks recorded in Guinea 1965-80. Soundiata is a collection of 1969-82 tracks by Mali's Rail Band, half of them featuring the band's celebrated early vocalists, Salif Keita and Mory Kante.
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